Abstract: Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence Face Housing Instability in a Housing First State (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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732P Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence Face Housing Instability in a Housing First State

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Lindsay Gezinski, PhD, Independent Researcher, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Kwynn Gonzalez-Pons, MPH, PhD Candidate, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Background and Purpose: Housing has been identified as critical for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). However, survivors often experience housing instability and homelessness upon exiting from an abusive relationship. In fact, 38% of women living in a domestic violence (DV) shelter reported experiencing homelessness after leaving the perpetrator. More research is needed on survivors’ housing needs, as well as the evolving demands placed on DV service organizations as affordable housing decreases and homelessness increases across the U.S. The purpose of this research study was to investigate survivors’ individual- and system-level barriers to securing housing in a Housing First state.

Methods: In-depth, semi-structured focus groups and interviews were conducted with 102 participants, including 43 survivors of IPV and 59 service providers. Purposive and snowball sampling were utilized to recruit participants via email contacts, flyers, and verbal promotion at DV service organizations. Primarily, participants identified as White (65.1% for survivors, 88.1% for service providers) or Native American (20.9% for survivors, 8.5% for service providers). Approximately 10% of survivors identified as Latinx/Hispanic, and 10% were born outside the U.S. Focus groups and interviews were audio-recorded with participants’ consent and transcribed verbatim. Grounded theory techniques supported the emergent process of themes arising in the data collection and data analysis processes. Data analysis was conducted in NVivo and consisted of line-by-line analysis, identifying themes, coding categories, and developing matrices to uncover relationships between themes and categories.

Findings: Primary themes were: (1) limited shelter space cannot accommodate high demand and (2) barriers to obtaining permanent housing. Sub-themes included: (a) unaffordable housing, (b) landlord discrimination, and (c) documentation and citizenship. Participants communicated an immense need for emergency shelter, yet reported limited shelter space. Unaffordable housing, described as a significant barrier to stability in both urban and rural areas, was attributed to gentrification, heavy tourism, and the oil boom. Moreover, survivors encountered inflexible property managers and landlords who refused to accommodate their IPV-related hurdles. These obstacles were magnified for marginalized and minoritized populations, including LGBTQ+ survivors (despite the state’s anti-discrimination policy) and those with criminal records. Many indigenous survivors were unable to establish tribal membership, which precluded them from accessing services. Finally, undocumented survivors encountered lengthy waiting periods for U-visas impeding their access to housing and other governmental benefits.

Conclusion and Implications: Although Housing First is prominent in the state, survivors’ housing needs continue to go unmet. Therefore, Housing First eligibility requirements should be adjusted, namely the prerequisite of 12 months of continuous and chronic homelessness. A specific number of Housing First placements should be reserved for survivors and their children. DV service organizations would benefit from increased resources and training to address multiple IPV-related needs concurrently, such as providing survivors with flexible child care and transportation options while they search for housing and employment. Service providers may consider implementing telehealth-like interventions to reach survivors who would otherwise be unable to access services. Future research should further examine the impact of interventions, such as rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing, on survivors’ long-term safety and stability.